My appreciation for professional wrestling has waxed and waned over the years. There have been times when I sat in front of the television watching as many matches as I could find (and there was a time when you were lucky if you could find an hour or two of wrestling per week on television); and on the flip side there have been times where I could care less about what was going on. When I was a kid I watched the very first WrestleMania on pay-per-view, and over the years I’ve seen some of my favorite wrestlers perform live. The one wrestler I have never seen—much to my regret—is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, one of my favorite performers of all time. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll conceded that The Rock is not the greatest wrestler to ever step into the ring, but when it comes to working the crowd and raw charisma, I believe he’s up there with the best of the best.
The Rock: The Evolution of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a WWE-produced documentary that tracks the life and career of “the most electrifying man sports entertainment.” Starting with the childhood of Johnson, who was born into professional wrestling—his father is the legendary Rocky Johnson, and his maternal grandfather was the equally legendary Peter Maivia—this nearly two hour doc covers material that should be familiar to fans of The Rock. That’s to say that anyone who knows Johnson from his career as a wrestler, as opposed to those who just know him from the movies, won’t be in for man surprises (if any at all), and if you already own any of the other WWE documentaries about The Rock, then you already have seen some of the stuff in this collection. At the same time, if you are a fan of Johnson, then this really is something of a must-have documentary, as it focuses as much on Johnson’s life and career inside the ring as outside.
The problem with any of these WWE-produced documentaries is that they are never critical of World Wrestling Entertainment/Foundation, and at times come across as being little more than fluff pieces for the wrestlers being profiled, Vince McMahon and his empire. And let’s face it, all of these docs are fluff pieces—this one is coming along just weeks before WrestleMania XXVIII, which is scheduled to have The Rock square off against John Cena. In fact, part of the documentary is a build-up to that match, which really drives home the fact that this is just another way of selling more WWE product. But that doesn’t change the fact that this is an entertaining package of career highlights, including some of The Rock’s most memorable moments. Covering most of Johnson’s entire career with WWE, the documentary looks at his ever-evolving personality, and how the fans have reacted to him over the years. One of the things that has always made The Rock so interesting is the way he controls the audience. Whether he’s in the role of a “face” or a “heel,” he can move a crowd like few other wrestlers can.
The Rock: The Evolution of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is at its best when it focuses around the late 1990s into 2000, when The Rock was really coming into his own as a wrestler and a personality. Filling the void left behind after the injury of Stone Cold Steve Austin, Johnson skyrocketed to stardom. I would argue that the period between 1998 and 2000 was the best of Johnson’s career, where he squared off in rivalries with Triple H, Mick Foley, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and many others. The Rock’s relationship with Mick “Mankind” Foley—both as rival and partner—goes down as one of my all-time favorite pro wrestling partnerships/rivalries, and thankfully it is covered in this doc. But perhaps most important—at least for me—is the way Johnson worked the microphone. As entertaining as his matches were, Johnson was always at his best when he was on the microphone.